Medicine Hat, AB - The Regina based company that was looking to fill the void left by Greyhound is finding out Greyhound was on to something.
Just last month, Rider Express announced they were temporarily suspending the Calgary to Winnipeg routes.
Now, the busing service has put a hold on the Calgary to Winnipeg route and reduced their Calgary to Vancouver trips to once a week.
Owner of Rider Express, Firat Uray, said four to five bookings for these trips simply weren't enough to keep the 55 passenger buses running.
"These numbers aren't helping us to provide the service. For now, we will put a hold on this route until we get more riders or help from the government. We will reconsider in the summer. If ridership increases, we will continue. If it doesn't, we will have to shut down this route permanently."
Even though the passenger numbers are low, Uray believes offering this service is still vital.
"There are lots of small towns that need the connection. Yes, numbers are down, but it doesn't mean that we need to close the routes forever. We still need to provide the service to those people who need to connect from small towns to cities."
Uray added he is open to help from both the federal and provincial government's.
"At the beginning, we weren't expecting these long route passenger numbers would be so low. Now that we're in it, we see they cannot be run without support. We have the buses, we have the drivers and we are ready as long as the government is willing to help."
Unfortunately, Uray said he's having a difficult time tracking down the right help though.
"I've been trying to reach both the federal and provincial government's, but I haven't heard much back. Nobody knows where to send me or who the person responsible is. I was able to get in contact the federal government and they said there is no help for private companies."
That then led Uray to contact the provincial government's in Alberta, B.C, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
"I was able to explain my case yesterday (December 4th) to the Ministry of Transportation in Alberta and hopefully they will help. In British Columbia and Manitoba, I haven't reached anyone yet. In Saskatchewan, they said they have no information."
The business owner said he isn't asking for much.
"We're not asking for a million dollars, just a bit of money to help provide this service to those who need it."
Uray said he has looked at other options as well.
"We have thought about using our 14 passenger vans to provide the service. Those vans really aren't good for over 6 hours of riding though. They're small and have tiny seats that passengers will likely get uncomfortable in. We really have no choice other than using the 55 passenger coach."
Uray said these 14 passenger vans are more suitable for the Saskatoon to Regina routes.
"The Saskatoon to Regina route we're able to run six days a week because we are using 14 passenger vans. That Saskatoon-Regina route ridership is supporting the bus. The 55 passenger bus routes are expensive and that is where we really need help from the government."
Although it may be costly, Uray said someone has to do it.
"All other companies are just taking the short runs. For example, in Alberta, there is a company that is just taking 3-4 hour routes. They're not even considering the routes that are 10-15 hours. They know there isn't enough riders and they believe it's too expensive. We wanted to be different and for it to work. We are the only company willing to provide that long run."
Uray said all he can do as a business-owner is hope things pick up in the new-year.
"Rider Express has invested so much money in these buses that are currently sitting in the parking lot collecting dust. Buses are ready, we are ready. We just need for this service that some people need."
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